Hope you have some time this morning. This is a lengthy edition of the Big Blue View mailbag. So, settle in and let’s open the mail!
Dan K. asks: It seems to me that the Giants organization, particularly the scouting team, has had trouble finding quality players throughout the entire draft compared to some other teams. I know that every player is different and some times teams get lucky in the later rounds or even with undrafted rookies. It doesn’t seem to me that the Giants do well when drafting and I don’t know if it’s the scouting team, the front office overriding their suggestions or just bad coaching that the team doesn’t have at least consistent solid players throughout their picks. In your opinion, what do you think needs to be done to address this matter?
Ed says: Dan, I can sense your frustration. It’s pointless at this point to go back to the days when Jerry Reese was GM, so let’s focus on the work done by Dave Gettleman. It’s generally said that it takes three seasons to really know what players will become. Gettleman has been GM for only two. We wrote this week about how the Giants young players are not improving the way they had hoped. Is that because Gettleman and his staff overestimated them? Or, is it because they are being badly coached and poorly utilized? I don’t know the answer, though I think it’s more the latter than the former.
Not every draft pick is going to work out. The Day 3 picks (Rounds 4-7) are really fliers where you’re just hoping guys become players. I think this Giants team should be better than it is, but building through the draft and waiting for young players to develop can be a slow, painful process. We will see in a few weeks where ownership believes the blame lies.
David Wright asks: I know you have already stated several times that John Mara really doesn’t want to go through another coaching change by letting Pat Shurmur go. My question is, do you personally think it’s sound judgement to potentially risk throwing away another season just to make absolutely sure you don’t have the right coach in place?
Don’t you think it’s just a little bit of denial and maybe even a little bit of hubris that John Mara doesn’t want to admit he made two bad consecutive coaching hires? Is it really worth risking another season?
Ed says: I think there is risk no matter what you do. I think that if you look at teams that change head coaches every couple of years, you are looking at bad teams. You are looking at teams who never build anything resembling consistent success. The Giants value stability and they know that if they can have a coach for a decade, like they did with Tom Coughlin, that gives them a better chance to succeed. That said, they will have two full years of evidence on Pat Shurmur and Dave Gettleman. If they don’t believe those guys can take the Giants where they want to go, they have to make a move. Mara knows that. Steve Tisch knows that.
Something else I keep saying, and many Giants fans keep missing. The Mara family owns only 50 percent of the team. The Tisch family is an equal partner. John Mara is the one who is in the building all the time, but Steve Tisch has just as much decision-making power. He is by no means a silent partner. It’s not Mara, Mara, Mara. It’s what the two of them agree on.
CTscan asks: So I know you don’t love talking about PFF, but I am totally confused. Smart people can disagree, but the disparity in opinion is huge Here. I’m not looking for you to defend either Position, just help me to understand how well regarded opinions could be so different on the basic facts.
Word is that Markus Golden and his 7 1/2 sacks are going to get paid next year – his PFF grade is a 57. This is well below the grade for an average starter.
BJ Hill who until a bump this week was seeing less and less playing time And is being whispered about as the odd man out. Has a score of 78, which would fall into the well above average range.
I can understand experts disagreeing around the edges, but to so fundamentally disagree just makes no sense to me. Any insights?
Ed says: CT, I don’t think you can take any single number or stat and say that makes a guy a great player. Just because Player A has nine sacks and Player B has six sacks, that isn’t definitive proof one guy is better than the other. Same with Pro Football Focus grades. I don’t care what PFF analysts tell you, there is subjectivity involved in those grades. There has to be because they can’t know a player’s exact responsibility on every play. In the case of Hill and Golden, Hill may have a better play-to-play grade, but is he a better player? No. I think you take all of the data — and what you see with your eyes — and mix it up like a big old pot of stew before you come to a conclusion. The 71/2 sacks don’t make Golden a great player, and the PFF grade doesn’t do that for Hill. Use each piece of information as part of the discussion. I hope I’ve answered your question. It’s just, in my view, more complicated than any single number.
Dylan Craig asks: Most of the blame over the latest losing streak has been placed primarily on the head coach and the coordinators, but back when I played football, the vast majority of my coaching was directly from position coaches rather than the higher-up coaches, I’d assume it’s similar in the NFL. Obviously the head coach/coordinators deserve a significant portion of the blame for their schemes and game-plans, if not for their oversight of the position coaches. But it seems that so many players are falling behind on the basic fundamentals, which is typically an oversight of the position coaches. Should more blame be placed on the position coaches, and (relatively) less on the higher-up coaches since schemes/game plans will fail without proper fundamentals?
Ed says: Dylan, I have said before that it is difficult to judge position coaches. We don’t really see them work, and we only get to talk to them a couple of times each year. That said, when certain position groups like the defensive backs or the offensive linemen continually struggle with basic assignments and continue to show confusion it is a bad reflection on the position coach. When players don’t get better, or continue to make the same mistakes, it is fair to wonder what they are being taught or if they are being taught properly. Since the position coach spends the most time with those players, you can connect the dots.
Mike Cohn asks: What do you think about the Giants refusal to give T.J. Jones, Alonzo Russell or Josiah Tauaefa a chance to play? Jones has one game where he looked great as a receiver but not great as a punt returner and they cut him immediately. Russel and Tauaefa had no chance (Tauaefa only special teams). Is the GM’s ego too much to give anyone a chance he didn’t find? It seems like this front office would have cut Victor Cruz. They seem to only consider retreads and draft picks.
Ed says: Mike, I think you are grasping at straws here. T.J. Jones is a journeyman receiver/returner. The Detroit Lions didn’t want him anymore. He’s a slot receiver who isn’t as good as Golden Tate or Sterling Shepard, and he fumbled three times in two games as a punt returner. That’s why he got cut. What does it tell you that no other team in the league has given him a job? Same with Alonzo Russell. He got cut because Cody Core, who replaced him, is a better, more proven player. I like Tauaefa, but he’s an undrafted player and the reality is those guys generally have to wait their turn. David Mayo is doing a nice job, and Deone Bucannon has been a good player in the NFL.
Fact is, in the NFL draft picks (especially highly-drafted ones) always get more chances than undrafted players. And they always get the first chance. It’s not specific to the Giants. Those are the players teams are invested most heavily in. Everybody in every business wants return on investment, and drafted players get more opportunities to give it.
As for Victor Cruz, do you remember Brandon Stokley? The Giants tried and tried to not play Cruz. He only got a real chance after Stokley, a veteran who the Giants had just added, got hurt and there was no one else. Sadly, that’s generally how it is with undrafted players. It’s not a Giants thing.
Ed Rosenberg asks: If Gettleman isn’t fired and Shumur is, do the Giants reunite Gettleman with a former head coach he had success with, Rivera?
Ed says: If Dave Gettleman remains as general manager, I think it’s a given that Ron Rivera, fired this week by the Carolina Panthers, will be among the leading candidates for the Giants job if it is available.
Gettleman and Rivera worked together for five years. They won double-digit games three times and went to a Super Bowl. I’m sure there is a level of respect between the two. That said, the ultimate decision is not Gettleman’s. That belongs to John Mara and Steve Tisch.
So, sure, it’s possible Rivera would be the guy. I don’t, though, think it’s automatic.
Phil Daniels asks: I’ve enjoyed your recent analysis of Mr. Gettleman’s NYG drafts over the past 2 years. I was wondering if you had thoughts about how the team has used the waiver wire during this time.
It seems that both years there have been quite a few last-minute, in-season pickups, basically marginal players that the Giants chose to acquire at the expense of guys who’d been with the team (and presumably learned the system) throughout the spring and summer training and pre-season periods. How well, in your opinions, has that group of players fared, compared to UDFAs who’ve made the team and others who may have been axed by NYG but caught on with other teams in the league?
Ed says: Phil, I don’t think we can go through every single waiver claim or player cut/released. But, I do get the question. There has been a lot of churn at the bottom of the roster, so let’s look at some of it.
One thing I will say is this — the rest of the league will tell you what they think of your roster, and your roster decisions. Pay attention to how few players the Giants have cut who currently have jobs in the league, not to mention how few are actually productive players for new teams.
At the beginning of the 2018 season, the Giants had a massive roster turnover during Week 1 of the season.
Cut at the end of 2018 training camp or before Week 1: DB Andrew Adams, G Malcolm Bunche, WR Marquis Bundy, DT Tyrell Chavis, WR Jawill Davis, TE Garrett Dickerson, WR Amba Etta-Tawo, DT A.J. Francis, DB Grant Haley, DB Mike Jones, G Zac Kerin, K Marshall Koehn, WR Roger Lewis, LB Warren Long, DT Izaah Lunsford, DE Avery Moss, LB Calvin Munson, TE Ryan O’Malley, RB Jhurell Pressley, WR Kalif Raymond, WR Travis Rudolph, WR Alonzo Russell, T Victor Salako, RB Jalen Simmons, DB Orion Stewart, DT Robert Thomas, LB Mark Herzlich, DB Leonard Johnson, DB Chris Lewis-Harris, G Chris Scott, TE Jerell Adams, DT Josh Banks, WR Hunter Sharp, QB Davis Webb, DB William Gay, G John Jerry, DE Romeo Okwara.
Most of those guys are out of the league. The Giants brought back a couple. A few may be on practice squads. Andrew Adams is playing and starting for Tampa Bay. Romeo Okwara had a good 2018 for Detroit, but has a half-sack this season. I’d argue that the only mistake in the whole group was Adams.
Among players added that week, backup center Spencer Pulley and special teamer Antonio Hamilton are the ones who remain. In-season pickups during the year included Corey Coleman and Elijhaa Penny. Both were upgrades.
Cut at the end of 2019 training camp or before Week 1: QB Kyle Lauletta, DT Chris Slayton, RB Jon Hilliman, WR Reggie White, Jr., TE C.J. Conrad, TE Jake Powell, OL Evan Brown, OL James O’Hagan, OL Paul Adams, OL Malcolm Bunche, DL Avery Moss, , DL Jake Ceresna, DL Freedom Akinmoladun, LB Josiah Tauaefa, LB Jake Carlock, LB Joey Alfieri, DB Tenny Adewusi, DB Terrell Sinkfield, P Johnny Townsend, LS Tabor Pepper, DL Terrence Fede, DL John Jenkins, WR TJ Jones, DB Kamrin Moore, LB Keion Adams, DB Kenny Ladler, Victor Salako, DB Henre’ Toliver, WR Alex Wesley, OT Chad Wheeler, DB Ronald Zamort, WR Alonzo Russell, OT Brian Mihalik, LB Nate Stupar, LB B.J. Goodson.
Again, some were brought back by the Giants. Many are out of the league. The only one I didn’t really get was Goodson. I think James Bettcher undervalued him. Aside from that, the only one I know of who might be considered an impact player is Pepper, who is now the long-snapper for the Miami Dolphins. Are we really going to argue about the Giants’ choice at long-snapper?
Among players added that week were linebacker David Mayo and wide receiver/special teamer Cody Core. Both have been good additions.
In the end, maybe Goodson and Adams were mistakes. On the flip side, some of the guys brought in have been useful.
Anthony Del Genio asks: Do you think that simply hiring an offensive coordinator with play-calling responsibilities and a new defensive coordinator with a simpler scheme with more man coverage would make a substantial difference in the Giants’ fortunes? (Plus drafting Chase Young!)
Ed says: Anthony, I boiled your question down to its essential part. I think Pat Shurmur could use a voice on the offensive coaching staff he has history with, and trust in. He wanted Kevin Stefanski as offensive coordinator, but couldn’t get him out of Minnesota. There are those who believe Shurmur should give up play-calling. I don’t know. I like CEO-style head coaches and not having to call plays might help Shurmur but I’m not convinced.
On defense, I have my issues with the way James Bettcher employs the secondary. I think I have been clear about that. Still, it’s not about scheme. Whatever, 4-3, 3-4, man, zone, the biggest issue is the Giants don’t yet have enough difference-makers on defense. Now, the responsibility of a coach is to take the players he has, figure out what they do best, put them in position to use those strengths. Also, to clearly teach and communicate what it is that he wants/needs from players.
Perry Fewell was a very smart, knowledgeable coach. His issue with the Giants was that he couldn’t really clearly communicate or teach players what he wanted. I’m wondering if Bettcher is the same way. A scheme or a call can be perfect, but if you can’t reinforce the fundamentals and teach players what it is you are looking for it isn’t going to work.
So, when it comes to defense I don’t care what scheme a potential replacement for Bettcher runs. I want a coordinator who emphasizes fundamentals and can clearly communicate and teach what players are responsible for on given plays. The same goes for position coaches.